Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fennel risotto

I don't know what made me think of fennel, but I did. It had been a long work-day too, and risotto is easy. Then I thought of Pastis. And I found some saffron. So it was like bouillabaisse. Without the fish. And the tomatoes. But with the Frenchman.

The creamy texture was perfection. The previous, tomato risotto, not. Reason. HOT stock!

Butter, about a tablespoonful (I usually cook with olive oil, but the butter is important here)
1 fat garlic clove, squashed and chopped fine
1 fat shallot, finely diced
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1/2 cup arborio rice (this is risotto for Two)
Healthy slosh (1/4 cup) Pastis
1-2 cups hot stock or water, I used a Swiss vegetable bouillon cube
3 thyme sprigs' leaves
4 fat stalks parsley, leaves chopped
Large pinch saffron threads
1 squeeze of lemon, no more
Black pepper
Knob of butter
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano

To learn risotto read Marcella Hazan on the subject. All I can tell you is this:

In a pan or pot with sides, melt the butter over medium heat and add the shallots and garlic, stir until coated with butter and cook gently without colouring for about 4 minutes till softer. Add the fennel. Cook another few minutes till softer. Add the rice, stir to coat until glistening and keep stirring to toast it.

After the rice has turned an opaque, chalky white, add the pastis, which will sizzle and make a lot of steam, and keep stirring until absorbed. You may want to turn the heat up a bit. Depends. Once it has been absorbed add gulps of hot stock, and stir between each addition. Don't just make soup and wait for it to be absorbed - the stirring is what produces the creamy texture. And you may need a little less, or a little more stock...If your stock is cold you will land up with glue. I know.

Add the saffron about halfway through your stock. The world will turn yellow.

After about ten minutes of this I start to nibble rice grains to see how done they are. You do not want mush. They must be firm, but not crunchy. When you sense it is all coming together, add the squeeze of lemon and stir. Taste. Stir in the chopped parsley.

Add the cheese moments before you eat it and stir again. It will turn creamy. Add pepper. Salt may not be necessary. Turn into a warmed bowl, eat at once.

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